While maintaining a steady exercise regimen is one of the best things people can do for their general good health, recent studies suggest an alarming correlation between bicycling and the onset of osteopenia, lower-than-normal bone density, or osteoporosis, very low bone mineral density, even among those who are young and fit.
A low-impact sport that puts little mechanical load on the bones and joints, bicycling is a wonderful cardiovascular exercise that people can enjoy into their later years. When it comes to the risk of thinning bones, however, it's the weight-bearing nature of exercise that signals bones to create more mass. Without such stress, bones do not get stronger, and become more prone to injury.
A recent study, that appeared in the journals Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, found that competitive road cyclists showed significantly lower bone mineral density in their spines than a control group of men who were moderately physically active.
Another challenge facing cyclists and swimmers in relation to bone density is caloric intake: Cycling and swimming are notorious for burning up calories, however, hard-core cyclists may not be eating enough to offset what they burn when they exercise, depriving their bodies of bone-strengthening nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.